The 5 most common bad back habits to break!

The everyday things YOU can do to prevent back pain. 

Do you know someone with back pain? Statistically, everyone does. It is one of the most common musculoskeletal conditions in the world and contributes to a large majority of pain medication prescriptions, spinal surgeries, and disability across Australia. At Premier, it is easily the most common complaint that comes through the door, this also means we have over 20 years of experience in treating it. We have seen the cascade of effects it can have on every aspect of someone’s life, and believe that no one should have to just deal with it.

The research and our knowledge behind back pain and treating it has taught us one extremely important, simple, yet frequently overlooked lesson: 

“Prevention is better than a cure”

While back pain can be treated and successfully recovered (see our earlier blog posts here about where to begin if this is you), the most effective form of treatment is a preventative approach that involves identifying the potentially bad habits that can contribute to back pain. If you think this is something you may be guilty of, we have 5 easy solutions that you can implement in your everyday life. 

From our experience, there are 5 bad habits that we notice many people with back pain do, these include 

  1. Lack of exercise 
  2. Lack of regular breaks
  3. Poor desk posture and set up
  4. No strength-based exercise
  5. Poor sleep habits

This article tells you about why they are harmful and how you can combat their negative effects. 

  • Lack of exercise 

Regular physical activity has important benefits for physical and mental health. It reduces the risk of many health problems such as heart disease, type 2 diabetes, anxiety, depression, musculoskeletal problems, some cancers, and unhealthy weight gain. There is clear evidence that doing some physical activity is better than doing none at all, and that increasing amounts of physical activity provide even more health benefits. Unfortunately, the nature of many of our jobs limits the opportunity we have to break up these periods of prolonged sitting or standing and can make it difficult to reach the recommended exercise guidelines as set out by the Australian Department of Health. The current recommendation for persons aged between 18 and 65 years old is to be active every day of the week. 

This is defined as 30min of moderate-intensity exercise every day, and 1 ½ – 2 hrs every week of vigorous exercise. 

While going for a walk, to the gym, or attending an exercise class is a great way to achieve this, it is not realistic for all. Small things you can do such as walking instead of taking the car, getting off the bus a stop earlier, taking the stairs instead of an elevator, or parking further away from the entrance all contribute to your daily exercise goal. 

  • Lack of regular breaks 

Our bodies are made to move, and breaking up periods of prolonged sitting or standing is one of the most effective ways to warn off back pain and stiffness which can result from muscles sitting in one position for a long period of time. Many people come into the clinic complaining of stiffness in their back which can severely limit our ability to move and function. Try listening to an audiobook or making a phone call while you walk, set alarms at the desk to remind you to get up and move, or take your lunch break somewhere you have to walk to. Creating these good habits will help you prevent back pain from becoming an issue.

Keeping our back moving and mobile is also something that can be done at the desk with a few handy exercises that you can keep written down on a memo pad by the desk. Try completing these exercises at the beginning, middle, and end of your day. Consistency is key- and not just when your back is starting to feel stiff.  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hold these stretches for 5 sec, and swap sides. Repeat 3 times, 3 times a day.

  • Poor desk posture and set up 

The way we sit at our desks can also have a large impact on the health of our back. It can lead to smaller muscles working harder than they should, while the bigger stabilizing muscles become weak and lazy. This muscle imbalance can be corrected with a rehabilitation program however it is important to start implementing the correct desk ergonomics before it’s too late. 

The following diagram shows the 5 areas that need to be addressed when setting yourself up at the desk.

Take time to reset and check in with your setup to avoid leaning forward and slouching towards the computer screen- a very common problem! 

  • No strength-based exercise

Strength-based work is something that everyone should be doing, it is vital for the strength of our muscles in supporting us during the day. Lack of strength and muscle activation can mean muscle weakness and imbalances that place more pressure on the joints of the back for support. The physical activity guidelines recommend 2 sessions of strength-based training every week, but this does not mean that you need to join a gym or purchase a set of weights. Body weighted exercises can be useful in building up strength in our postural muscles. Try and include some of these exercises at LEAST twice a week to help your body stay strong and function at its best. It is important to perform these exercises with the correct technique for them to be the most effective.

Starting on your hands and knees, slowly raise the opposite leg and hand. Try and do this without moving your pelvis or back, and squeezing the glutes and shoulder blade.

Laying on your back with one knee bent, and the other out straight on a 45-degree angle, arms flat by your side. 

Squeeze the glute muscle and dig your foot into the ground, raise your hips up and hold for a second before lowering down. Do 15 reps on each leg twice. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  • Poor sleep habits

Sleep is incredibly important for our mind and body to function properly. It gives our bodies the rest it needs to heal and recover from the day’s demands. If you are not meeting your body’s sleep needs it can present a cascade of effects on our health including brain function, growth, and mood regulation. If you are tired, you may not have the energy to hold yourself with the correct posture or get lazy when it comes to meeting physical activity requirements. This contributes to a vicious cycle of damage to the body, and then lack of healing time during sleep. Everybody’s sleep demands are different, but on average adults require 7-9hrs hours of sleep every night. Wind down your evening by getting rid of screens, closing your eyes, and finding a comfortable position. The iPhone has a feature that allows you to set your wake-up time and sends a reminder when you should start winding down for the night to meet the sleep guidelines.

It takes approximately two weeks to change a habit, so stick with these small changes and they will soon become automatic parts of your day. Take some time to figure out what needs to be done to help you make these changes, and ask yourself why these changes are important to you. This will provide powerful motivation for you to stick with these good habits and prevent back pain from becoming a serious issue for you. 

Commonly we have patients visit the Premier clinic for regular maintenance work and check-ins that help put a stop to any bad habits before they become hard to break. Things like massage, joint manipulation, and specific exercise prescription can ensure the health of your back stays at its best. If you think you may benefit from having a back pain specialist assess, offer advice and provide maintenance work give our friendly reception a call on 9481 7794 or BOOK HERE.

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